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ND listed as a top Peace Corps university

Dan Brombach | Sunday, February 5, 2012

Placing on the Peace Corps’ list of top universities nationwide for the 12th straight year, Notre Dame has established a tradition of expanding learning beyond the classroom.

Notre Dame ranked 10th on the Peace Corps’ list of Medium Colleges and Universities to produce the most Peace Corps volunteers in 2011.

According to a recent Notre Dame press release, 35 alumni currently serve in the Peace Corps around the world. Among that list is 2010 Notre Dame alumna Meghan Costello, who has spent the past 16 months in Rwanda. 

Costello said her primary role in Rwanda is teaching English, yet her mission goes far beyond teaching itself.

“Peace Corps is different from other organizations because it is so much more than the primary assignment,” she said. “It’s about integration into a community, learning about another culture and spreading American culture. Through these steps, you can find other ways to be useful in the community.”

The prospect of joining the Peace Corps was something that Costello said she had always considered, and after joining, it became the perfect fit for her.

“I think Peace Corps was always in my head, a little thing inside that I always wanted, but didn’t think I would ever actually experience,” she said. “When it became a part of my reality, I had the support of all my family and friends. It felt so right.”

The atmosphere and the people of Notre Dame are what motivated Costello to join the Peace Corps, she said.

In addition, a study abroad trip to Rome helped her realize a passion for applying her education outside of the classroom.

“Studying abroad in Rome certainly helped in my desire to experience other cultures,” she said. “I wanted to understand what I was reading in class and to experience the reality of these situations, whatever the reality was.”

Although Costello said life in Rwanda can be difficult and lonely at times, she finds comfort in her tasks and responsibilities.

“The highlights always come with good work,” she said. “I have recently been plunging into projects in my community, and they bring me joy the kind of joy that comes after finishing a tough paper or a long run.”

However, Costello said it is difficult for her to express in words how her time in Rwanda has been because she has yet to fully understand it herself.

“My experience in Rwanda is impossible to describe,” she said. “It’s everything that you’d picture it would be ¾enlightening, challenging, life-changing, difficult, rewarding … it’s all those things, but different than you could ever imagine.”

Looking toward the future, Costello said she is unsure of what her plans are, but her experience in the Peace Corps has broadened her perception of what careers are available in the business world.           

“I am meeting fascinating people all the time here, and so many are doing great work,” she said. “There are so many cool jobs out there, and I want them all. We will have to see what life has in store for me.”